Monday, 3 July 2017

Ronald Coase a socialist!

I have just come across an article by Per Bylund at the Mises Institute website on the question Was Ronald Coase an Austrian? At one point Bylund answers the question by saying,
He was hardly an Austrian economist. On the contrary, he was a self-declared socialist - at least in his youth.
Let me quote Coase himself on this,
One may ask how I reconciled my socialist sympathies with acceptance of [Arnold] Plant's [free market] approach. The short answer is that I never felt the need to reconcile them. I would only recall that a fellow student, Abba Lerner, who, in the preface to his Economics of Control, acknowledges Plant's influence in the development of his views, went to Mexico to see Trotsky to persuade him that all would be well in a communist state if only it reproduced the results of a competitive system and prices were set equal to marginal cost. In my case my socialist views fell away fairly rapidly without any obvious stage of rejection (Emphasis added).
So the description should be 'he was a self-declared socialist - ONLY in his youth'.  I'm sure that anyone who has read the older Coase will be surprised to see him call a socialist. If fact in an interview Coase tells a story about his wife going to a party while he was at the University of Virginia,
They thought the work we were doing was disreputable. They thought of us as right-wing extremists. My wife was at a cocktail party and heard me described as someone to the right of the John Birch Society. There was a great antagonism in the '50s and '60s to anyone who saw any advantage in a market system or in a nonregulated or relatively economically free system.
Perhaps being both a socialist and to the right of the John Birch Society is an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel Prize!

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